Friday, October 5, 2007

On Conservative-NDP Co-operation

Earlier today, Cherniak wrote:

The federal NDP would be hilarious if they weren't so destructive. You'll have to get to the end of the article, but just as they are starting to gain traction attacking the Tories they are back to attacking the Liberals. I think they just don't get it - people don't trust them to form a government. The federal NDP will never be more than a third party that makes it possible for Conservatives to win elections. Even the Conservatives admit it!

It may come as a surprise to some Liberals, but some New Democrats will admit it too.

Let me give you a good example of how Tory-NDP co-operation helped sink the Liberals in Niagara Falls.

In the 2003 provincial election, when it looked like the local Conservative campaign was going down with the ship, Bart Maves’ people sent the NDP campaign a list of voters who were identified as not supporting the Conservatives. The idea was that the NDP, with very few resources or volunteers, could more easily identify their supporters that way and hopefully, swing a few Liberal votes away from Kim Craitor’s campaign. The last minute Tory strategy failed and the Liberals won the riding.

I wasn’t involved in the 2003 campaign. However, less than a year later, while co-managing the Federal NDP’s campaign in Niagara Falls, we were able to rely on those 2003 Tory lists to build and, more importantly, broaden our base of support. In fact, we relied exclusively on those lists in that campaign and the NDP vote shot up to over 20% on election day and we quadrupled our vote total from the previous election. The Liberals lost a seat they had held since 1993 by fewer than 2000 votes to the Tories.

In 2006, I once again managed the NDP campaign in Niagara Falls. This time we had our own lists left over from 2004 and had more resources than ever before. Our advertising focused almost exclusively on attacking the Liberals despite the fact that it was now a Tory riding. We took this approach because we understood that the Liberals were in decline and our best opportunity for building our vote total came from disgruntled Liberals, not committed Conservatives. We attacked the Tories when it was convenient, but the Liberal record was our major focus.

Our efforts paid off. In fact, on election day we took over 12,000 votes, a record for the federal NDP in Niagara Falls. In debates, in the newspaper coverage, and in our election ads, we took direct aim at the Liberals, sometimes with the help of Rob Nicholson’s campaign. When Paul Martin was visiting the riding towards the end of the campaign to make an announcement about the development of a “heroes fund”, Tory MP Rob Nicholson personally contacted our campaign reminding us that this was originally an NDP proposal turned down by the Liberals. He left his personal cell phone number, said he was happy to help and encouraged us to contact him in case we couldn’t get research help from our own central campaign. Let's just say the Tory war room is faster. With Nicholson’s assistance, we were able to develop a targeted leaflet which exposed the Liberal flip flop and embarrassed the Liberal campaign. Nicholson also personally visited the NDP office and we were in contact with his office over advertising issues, successfully lobbying the Tories to pull a newspaper ad which the NDP candidate thought might hurt our campaign.

To call this collusion would be silly, since our campaigns were very much independent. We did, however, have a common enemy in the Liberals. We both understood, correctly in my view, that our campaigns both benefited from a collapse in the Liberal vote. In cooperating or accepting assistance from the Tories, we never sacrificed our beliefs or principles. Instead, we managed to run a great campaign, which promoted the NDP’s message and exposed the Liberals as a carbon copy of the Tories. This, more than anything, is why New Democrats attack Liberals in my view. The NDP was created because the two old parties were not addressing the needs of the working class. While Liberals like to portray themselves as centrists, they campaign on the left and govern on the right. As such, they can’t expect to be given a free ride by the NDP, even if it means electing a Tory.

1 comment:

Kuri said...

And arguably, in a lot of cases, it doesn't make much different whether you elect a Blue Liberal or a Tory.